Rebutting Labour’s Smear Attack

I first became aware that Labour had carried out a personally-based smear attack against me on Saturday evening when a colleague pointed it out to me.  Here’s the post they put out:

The problems with this post:

  • The photograph of me is one I took – and therefore own. The Redditch Labour Party has infringed my copyright by creating this unauthorised works that features my image without permission. They’ve broken the law.
  • Yes, I did say Redditch isn’t growing as fast as you think – that’s true. See my post here with charts and all sorts. It’s an indisputable fact that the population growth has plateaued.
  • The next comment is taken out of context from a conversation I was having with Lee Daykin, a Conservative supporter who (like me) feels passionately about the plight of the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch. We disagree on a number of points, but we have a civilised debate. You can read the whole discussion by clicking here. Feel free to jump in too.  Labour’s Facebook army scoured the comments looking for this quote, and deliberately took it out of context.  Here’s the full context of the comments (click to enlarge it – I’ve highlighted the section Labour lifted to power their graphic):

  • At no point did I ever claim that birthing rates were the reason for the movement of services from the Alex. To suggest that I have said this is a complete lie.
  • Labour then said I wasn’t telling the truth – they are calling me a liar.  A bit rich, don’t you think? You can see the full thing for yourself.
  • They then end with the hurled insult “you need to use your nouse when listening to Rouse” – like something out of a 10 year old’s playground.

It gets even more interesting. A local resident who is one of the nicest men I’ve ever met – and who I got to know before standing for election – speaks up for me:

I replied with a comment that has since been deleted and got me blocked by Redditch Labour Party (click it to enlarge it).

Do you see anything in here that deserves to get me blocked? Here is Labour’s response to my challenge over it.

I still have not been told who the Secretary of the Redditch Labour Party branch in Redditch is, and I still have not been told how I can raise my formal complaint.

This post, taken as a whole, is what I consider to be an attempt as part of an ongoing campaign to intimidate me out of public office.

Never have I, or the Conservatives in Redditch, ever attempted to smear or intimidate a Councillor holding public office in the town.  We have attacked Labour on their record, but we have never made crude photoshopped graphics of them, smeared misinformation about a sensitive topic all over it and attributed things to their Councillors that they never said.

The above post has been shared by Parliamentary candidates and Labour Councillors.

The following is taken from Labour’s own social media policy, which you can read in full for yourself:

“A starting point for all our actions as members of a party and a movement is to treat all people with dignity and respect.”

It goes on:

“Harassment, intimidation, hateful language and bullying are never acceptable … It is perfectly possible to have vehement disagreements without descending into personal abuse, shaming people or exhibiting bullying behaviour. Forcefully made points and criticisms of the political views of others are totally legitimate, personal attacks are not.”

It finishes with:

Trolling, or otherwise disrupting the ability of others to debate is not acceptable, nor is consistently mentioning or making contact with others when this is unwelcome.

I shall leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide if you think Labour has behaved in accordance with its own social media policy here.

If you wish to contact me about this post you can reach me on [email protected]

Fact Check: Is Redditch a Growing Town?

There is a common notion that ‘Redditch is a growing town’ and whilst more houses are going up (and certainly more affordable housing choices will soon be going up under the Conservative-run council) the data is yet to catch up and actually shows some interesting challenges to the assertion that Redditch is growing. Yes, it is growing, but not as fast as people think.

I’m actually worried about it plateauing.

According to ONS mid-year population estimates (2016) the estimated population of Redditch in 2016 was 84,971. This is just 228 higher than the 2015 estimate of 84,743.

Redditch Estimated Population 201684,971
Redditch Estimated Population 201584,743
Redditch Population Change228

This represents a 0.26904% increase, rounded to 0.27%.  Let’s compare this to our nearest neighbour, Bromsgrove.

Bromsgrove Estimated Population 201696,769
Bromsgrove Estimated Population 201595,768
Bromsgrove Population Change1,001

This represents a 1.04523% annual growth, rounded to 1.04% 

There will be towns with higher growth rates and towns with lower growth rates. What’s important is how we handle growth (or shrinkage should that happen).

I am fully expecting the growth rate to increase as more homes are built inside Redditch. Especially as the Conservative-led council that I represent will be building a lot more council homes than the Labour-led council did over their 6 years in control. More on that another time perhaps, let’s keep it clean. Besides, there’s also private development going in that will hopefully boost these numbers.

The Plateau

The chart above shows the population issue we are currently contending with – a plateau.

More recent data

The reason I am using the 2016 figures is because this is the data used in a ‘Needs and Assets Profile’ produced by Worcestershire County Council, which relies on ONS figures.   We can however, fast-forward and look at the 2017 mid-year figures, which show the Redditch population at 85,204 – an increase of just 233 from 2016 to 2017 – five more people than the 2015 to 2016 figures. The plateau continues.

What about the birth rate?

According to the ONS mid-year figures for 2016 the number of births in Redditch was: 1,101.

Redditch Births in 20161,101
Divided by 12 months91.75
Divided by 52 weeks21.17
Divide the weekly figure over 7 days3.02

This seems to indicate that the local demand for births would be around 3 births per day on current figures. It would need to be a lot higher than this to justify full maternity services at the local hospital. I’m sorry to say that, but it’s true. You cannot have a full maternity service with just 3 babies being born there on average per day – this being a crude average you could expect some days to be busy but then some days where there might not be a birth at all. 

We need to talk about migration…

The ONS figures turn up something interesting. Perhaps we wouldn’t be seeing the local population plateau if we didn’t see so many people leave Redditch.

Migration Inflow – Internal UK2600
Migration Outflow – Internal UK3181
Net Internal Migration-581
Migration Inflow – International607
Migration Outflow – International233
Net International Migration+374

The above table shows that 581 more people left Redditch for other UK places to live than came to Redditch from elsewhere in the UK.

However, 374 more people came into Redditch from overseas than left Redditch to go to an overseas destination to live.

The difference is -207. There are not enough people coming from overseas to cancel out the number of people departing Redditch for elsewhere in the UK. 

Deaths

When looking at populations you do also have to think about the death rate in an area. For Redditch in 2016, according to the ONS figures we have been dealing with, the number of deaths were 679.

With births at 1,101 and deaths at 670 the difference is a 422 ‘surplus of life’ if I can coin an awkward term. 

In Conclusion

Is Redditch a growing town? Yes. But only just. 

The question we need to be asking is whether or not we want to grow more, and if we do how we go about achieving a stronger rate. I would argue if we want Redditch to avoid becoming known as a sleepy backwater town we need to step things up quite considerably. 

  • House building – this is ongoing and I suspect will lead to an improved rate in the 2018 and 2019 figures when they are released.
  • Business growth – we are seeing more businesses in Redditch with over 3,000 in the town. This doesn’t necessarily mean population growth as people will commute, but strong business means career opportunities and makes people less likely to depart for elsewhere in the UK.
  • Make Redditch an option for people – by which I mean make Redditch a place that people will look at and want to move here. That’s things like making sure the place looks nice, it feels safe, it has plenty of things to see and do, and people can see themselves at home here. Part of that is also around housing choices – making sure people have a good choice of homes rather than the usual square boxes on offer at the moment. 

Above all, if we want Redditch to be bigger and better, we need to think bigger and better for our town and that starts with all of us living here right now. 

Feeding back to you about the Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) where I raised a question about the ambulance divert trial

I recently attended a Health Overview & Scrutiny meeting on 5th July in which the committee looked at the various winter pressures issues that have been widely reported. In the context of managing capacity I asked a question about the ambulance divert trial currently in place that sees patients in the DY10 and DY11 post code areas of Kidderminster being transferred to the Alex in Redditch.

The draft minutes of the meeting have now been published. I have copied the section about the ambulance divert below to save you having to find them in the PDF yourself: Continue reading “Feeding back to you about the Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) where I raised a question about the ambulance divert trial”

A good news update for residents about moss and pavement surface issues in Jersey Close

Earlier this year I got quite a bit of stick from Labour over moss on the pavements around Jersey Close. They seemed to think I was making a legal argument; I wasn’t. It was a moral argument in representation of a resident who slipped on the moss and broke his ankle. More should be done, I argued. Continue reading “A good news update for residents about moss and pavement surface issues in Jersey Close”

Update for residents following my talk with Tracey Onslow (Deputy PCC) about anti-social behaviour issues in Church Hill

Today I attended Rachel Maclean’s coffee morning tour in Matchborough and was delighted to see residents from Church Hill had made the effort to come over for a chat about issues that are affecting them at the moment.

One of the other reason I was keen to attend this event was to grab some time with Tracey Onslow, the Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner. I wanted to talk about the anti-social behaviour issues in Church Hill where we have issues with young people misbehaving in the bus road. I also saw our PCSOs at the coffee morning so was able to have a chat with them about things too.

  • Quick Aside: Bicycles are now banned from Willow Trees Community Centre owing to behaviour and damage.

I have been working closely with local groups such as PACT, Church Hill Big Local and the YMCA.  I’ve also been talking with members of the community who have been brilliant around all of this.

There are a number of things we can look at and Tracey had some good suggestions that I am going to follow-up. I don’t want to go into the specific details just yet as they might not come to anything and I wouldn’t want to raise false hope. I will just say they involve certain pots of money to fund certain things. We might not even be fully eligible to apply, but I’ve got to try to see what’s possible.

  • In the meantime I would urge anyone with concerns about anti-social behaviour in the bus road to please call 101 and log the incident. You can also log certain things online at https://www.westmercia.police.uk/report
  • If you would like to talk to me about the issues you can email me in my capacity as a local Councillor on [email protected] – but remember, as a Councillor I cannot come in and wave a magic wand to solve problems immediately, but I will always be happy to chat and see how I can help you.

Join our MP, Councillors and community groups at the next Redditch Coffee Morning at St. Andrew’s Church

I am delighted to report the next stop on Rachel Maclean’s Coffee Morning Tour will be Church Hill.

Date: Friday 13th July 2018
Time: 10am until 12pm
Location: St Andrew’s Church, off Tanhouse Lane/Upperfield Close, Redditch
Cost & Parking: FREE with limited on-site parking. Bus stop just outside for routes 48, 58, and 150.

More details and RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/223092934947745/

Rachel’s Coffee Mornings are a great opportunity to meet your local MP, local Councillors from both the Borough and the County, and a range of community groups and businesses including Age Concern, Barclays, Pensions Advice Service, and more.

Plus, there’s free tea, coffee and cake for all. These cross-party cross-community events are open to all, so come along and enjoy!

See you there!

 

My Appointments to External Bodies and Committees

There’s exciting elements to politics, and there’s less exciting things that still need to be done as part of the council’s important work. Appointments to committees and external bodies are important and essential to the successful running of any democratic body (like a council). However, unless you are a political anorak it’s hard to find the fun in it all, I accept that, so for now you’ll need to take my word on it.

Committees are where a lot of work gets done; most of them are open to the public to attend and they feed into the bigger picture, sometimes culminating in a vote at Full Council or steering changes to policies and other decisions a council might make. Here’s a list of the committees to which I was appointed to on Monday 21 May 2018.

I have also been appointed to a couple of ‘external bodies’ – these are committees and groups the council takes an interest in because what they do has an impact on Redditch people and businesses.

The GBSLEP scrutiny committee is responsible for reviewing and scrutinising decisions made by the GBSLEP Supervisory Board. A lot of money is spent by the LEPs, so scrutiny of how this money is spent is important.

The Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee is a committee of Worcestershire County Council that is made up of members drawn from places like Redditch Borough Council. It’s our job as a committee to scrutinise decisions made by the local Trust Board. This role is particularly important to me as it will give me an opportunity to bang the drum for the Alex and our local NHS services here in Redditch, something I am very passionate about.

What is Rachel’s Coffee Morning Tour, what does it have to do with Church Hill, and why bother?

Rachel Maclean is your MP and tries to be as visible and accessible as possible, and as part of this she has implemented a ‘Coffee Morning Tour‘.

Rachel’s Coffee Morning Tour is basically a bit like a roving roadshow that makes its way around Redditch. It’s not just coffee and cake with Rachel (though that’s definitely what you should do), it’s about seeing a full range of democratic and community people/groups/organisations. For example:

  • Local Borough Councillors
  • County Councillors
  • The Member of Parliament
  • Age Concern
  • Barclays Bank
  • Pensions Advice Service
  • Worcestershire Police & Crime Commissioner

As a Borough Councillor I represent Church Hill, but I also represent the whole of Redditch Borough Council, so you are welcome to come along and talk to any Councillor about anything that concerns you about Redditch. If you bring up something very specific about your area we may have to put you in touch with your local Councillor for your area.

The beauty of the Coffee Morning Tour is having all of these services under one roof. If you need to be referred to a Councillor there will be one in the room ready to see you immediately. No going away and having to repeat your issue yet again.

The first event at the Oasis Christian Centre was a great success – and the cake was splendid. The second event is at Christ Church in Matchborough and looks to be an even bigger event. Well worth coming along – and a great chance for you to meet me so we can have a chat about anything that’s bothering you.

  • Date: Friday 15 June 2018
  • Time: 10am until 12pm
  • Location: Christ Church, Ryton Close, Redditch

Just come along, enjoy tea/coffee and cake and just have a chat. No pressure.